Why Not In Laguna Beach?

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Our guest columnist suggests adding a summer Stroll & Savor event in Laguna Beach.

By Jackie Adams

downtown laguna beach

Ever since William and Nathaniel Brooks settled in Laguna Beach in 1876, there have been two constants in this seaside town: a strong aversion to commercialism and a thriving artisan community. No matter how much tourism Laguna gets, no matter how many reality shows set their focus on trivialities, this small town strives to keep its “art village” vibe.

Beyond art, Laguna has grown to have a dynamic foodie scene, including Laguna Beach a la Carte—A Food & Wine Experience held each spring. With the restaurant scene ever expanding, however, there is plenty of room for another food-centered event—this one held during the summer out on the streets, where everyone can easily and inexpensively participate.

Long Beach has something along these lines called the Stroll & Savor. It’s a night where people can walk around the heart of Belmont Shores and explore the restaurant scene and run into neighbors. When it began more than 20 years ago, it was just a two-night event down Second Street, and even though only a couple of restaurants participated in it at first, it was a hit. Now it has blossomed into the Belmont Shore Business Association’s most profitable event they put on and spans eight nights every summer.

More than 40 restaurants participate by setting up tables outside and selling small plates of food for tickets. At 5:30 p.m., the streets become packed with people walking their dogs, kids skateboarding, and drivers slowly cruising up and down the street with their windows down. Street musicians and face painters add to the entertainment. On every corner, strangers and neighbors stand elbow-to-elbow, snacking and people-watching.

It is a great $10 date night––one ticket book can easily feed two people. And the variety is incomparable; you can start off the night sharing pad thai and a Greek plate while listening to a Santana cover song before stopping for gourmet macaroni and cheese and finishing the meal with mini cupcakes or gelato and coffee to the tune of “Stand by Me.”

The restaurants benefit by getting more business and attracting repeat customers. Foodies love it because they can knock a handful of restaurants off of their “to-try” list in a single night. And residents of Belmont Shore get to walk to a night out and not worry about finding parking.

Why Not 2This event focuses on restaurants, similar to Laguna Beach a la Carte. But where the Stroll & Savor is spontaneous and breezy, Laguna a la Carte offers courses and wine pairings. You could call the annual food and wine festival the more formal, upscale sister of the Stroll & Savor. Just as the Sawdust Festival was begun to balance out the Pageant of the Masters, a Laguna Stroll & Savor could add balance to our food events.

We already have the perfect venue, the beachy streets of downtown Laguna. Perfect for strolling, there are restaurants, bars, built-in foot traffic, street musicians; the entire infrastructure is already in place. The only missing ingredient is a motivated organizing force. All it would take is an organization, a group of passionate locals, or even a well designed webpage that can be promoted through social media.

It’s a suggestion for a new Laguna Beach tradition that complements the long-standing art events and festivals, and binds the community together in a new way, while also supporting local businesses. Besides, it’s another excuse to enjoy food and get outside during the summer. LBM

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